Handwriting makes a comeback in US schools

That inking feeling: Four handwriting styles in chronological order (clockwise from top-left).

Should handwriting be taught in schools? More American schools are putting cursive back on the curriculum. But for some, computers have made handwriting lessons a waste of time.

This article was typed, as are most things nowadays. The printing press, the typewriter, the computer, the smartphone: with each invention, people have proclaimed the death of handwriting.

But evidence points to the contrary. Lawmakers in Illinois have recently passed a law requiring schools to teach handwriting. State Senator Kimberley Lightford claimed that cursive “is a skill children will need throughout their lives”. Illinois is the latest of 15 states to introduce cursive lessons to schools.

The creation of the Common Core standards in 2010 dealt a blow to handwriting lessons. While requiring “keyboarding skills”, they do not even mention cursive. However, states are not obliged to follow the standards, and have some freedom to decide their curriculums.

In recent years, a number of studies have indicated the benefits of good penmanship. Writing in cursive has been linked to improved spelling, higher SAT scores and better retention of information. Sceptics say that the studies are not conclusive.

Good handwriting has other, more obvious advantages. It enables you to read documents written by hand. And it is beautiful — which may be why some schools in Ohio are teaching it in art class.

Write or wrong?

Every school in the country should bring back proper cursive lessons, say some. It will help you in your education, and in life generally. Just as importantly, handwriting is an art form that has been refined over millennia. It would be tragic if we lost it through pure laziness.

Not true, reply others. There is no strong evidence for all these benefits. If anything, an emphasis on cursive can demoralise pupils who are naturally bad at handwriting. There is only so much time in a school day. Teachers should focus on modern skills like coding.

You Decide

  1. How much classroom time per week (if any) should be spent on handwriting?

Activities

  1. Come up with a signature, making sure that it is very distinctive.

Some People Say...

“You can’t write poetry on a computer.”

Quentin Tarantino

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
For a long time handwriting was only practised by an elite, such as monks or the professional penmen who wrote the Constitution. It is only in the 19th century that fine handwriting became a widespread skill.
What do we not know?
Where this comeback will go. Some argue that keyboards will spark a backlash. Others believe the practicality of typing will kill off fine handwriting.

Word Watch

15 states
Other states include Florida, Texas and Alabama.
Common Core
A set of national learning guidelines created in order to help standardise education across states and improve its overall quality.
Written by hand
In the trial of George Zimmerman, the policeman who shot Trayvon Martin dead in 2012, a witness for the prosecution claimed to have written a letter that was important to the case. But when presented with the letter, she was forced to admit that this was not true: she could not read its cursive script.

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